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Malta News Briefing – Sunday 22 November (Update)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Update 1900h – Newsportal review

Writer Oliver Friggieri is to be given a funeral by the state in recognition of his  ‘extraordinary contribution’ to the country and its people, the government announced on Sunday. – Times of Malta

Good politics is when a politician serves everyone, Archbishop Charles Scicluna said on Sunday. Delivering his homily at the Basilica of Christ the King in Paola on the occasion of the liturgical feast of Christ the King, Archbishop Scicluna reflected on Pope Francis’ encyclical letter “Fratelli Tutti” focusing on the Holy Father’s teachings regarding politics. Good politics serves everyone, Archbishop Scicluna said, noting that when a government builds a new road, it is there to serve everyone. “If a politician does what he does to secure votes, if he seeks to please everyone, then he might be serving his community,” Mgr Scicluna. – Newsbook

A balcony and parts of a roof have collapsed in a Pietà street as rough winds sweep through Malta. The incident happened at Triq Zammit Clapp, Pietà during the later morning hours.  No one has been injured and no cars were damaged. – MaltaToday

After losing his place in Robert Abela’s cabinet, Silvio Parnis has hinted that his time in politics will soon be coming to an end. Parnis was the only casualty of a reshuffle announced on Saturday night, which saw four new ministers and three other ministers be shifted to a different portfolio. – Malta Independent

Updated 1245 – Covid-19 Update – 102 new COVID-19 cases were found in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry reported. With 89 persons recovering, active cases edged up to 2159. 3,221 swab tests took place yesterday.

The daily reported noted that once again family clusters were the largest source of new cases, with 31 of 141 cases reported on Saturdays being traced to members of same household. 14 cases were related to work contacts.

Addressing a Labour political event this morning, PM Robert Abela expressed hope that by next year, Malta will have the anti-coronavirus vaccine which will allow a return normality. Abela said that the government is working to ensure that Malta is among the first countries to receive the vaccine once the candidate shots are approved and produced for global consumption.

He urged the public to respect to the coronavirus regulations and measures, saying that one should not give up now with a possible vaccine around the corner.

Party Leaders react to Cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted that the new Cabinet was “one of substance”. He highlighted that the new executive included the most youthful, feminine, and Gozitan group of ministers ever appointed. Abela also referred to the country’s economic strategy.

With other countries stuck in cycles of debt and austerity, Abela noted Malta’s recent A+ credit rating from a German credit rating agency and an EU-approved national budget as sure-fire signs of sound government finances. According to Abela, the EU praised Malta for controlling national debt and on the COVID-19 measures implemented throughout the year. 

“Not only have we given support through the wage supplement, but we have also looked back at what happened under previous injustives under previous governments and offered compensation for it – all this during a pandemic. We do this because we believe that government should improve the quality of life of citizens,” he said.

Opposition leader Bernard Grech said on Sunday that the fact that Prime Minister Robert Abela was forced to change his Cabinet after less than a year was a sign of his “incompetence”. 

He remarked that ‘after only ten months, this country has a Prime Minister who is showing us that he is incompetent. Ten months ago, PM Robert Abela boasted that he has the biggest cabinet in history but now acknowledges that he was wrong and what he did was a failure.’ 

This goes to show, amongst other things, that the Prime Minister is solely interested in his party, in himself and in obtaining votes, Grech insisted in an address to PN faithful.

Updated 0900 – Newspaper Review

Malta Today publishes details of a Cabinet reshuffle announced by the government on Saturday. The paper says that underperforming ministers were taken off their portfolios and, in Silvio Parnis’ case, out of the Cabinet.

Illum reports on Robert Abela’s Cabinet reshuffle on Saturday. Justyne Caruana has been reinstated Minister while Silvio Parnis has lost the job, new MPs Miriam Dalli and Clyde Caruana have also been given ministerial responsibilities.   

Kullħadd quotes Prime Minister Robert Abela who said that the new Cabinet unveiled on Saturday characterises a diverse but unified government. Abela said that his priority was to raise the quality of life.

The Sunday Times says that the Inland Revenue Department has filed judicial acts against construction magnate Charles Polidano ordering him to pay around €40 million in outstanding taxes or face court action.

The Independent on Sunday carries an interview with European Parliament vice president Roberta Metsola who said she will use her new role to keep migration at the top of the agenda and is pushing for a political decision on the issue by the end of December.

It-Torċa reports on cases of wage discrimination against persons with disability. Employers defended the difference by arguing that people with special needs have less responsibilities and that they require more assistance to carry out their jobs.

Il-Mument announces the death of Professor Oliver Friggieri on Saturday which, it reports, has shocked the country. The paper carries reactions to the news and says that Friggieri will forever remain Malta’s conscience.

The Sunday Times quotes survey results by advisory firm EMCS which found that 53 percent of people intend to spend Christmas alone at home while 37 percent plan to see family or friends. A fourth of respondents expect to spend less than they have in other years.

The Independent on Sunday says that PN insiders are unhappy with party leader Bernard Grech contesting the 11th District in the general election. The sources expected him to contest the 12th District.

It-Torċa quotes a European Parliament survey which found that 57 percent of families in Malta have not suffered any impact related to the pandemic. The rate is the highest behind Luxembourg and Denmark.

Malta Today says that Air Malta has not declared its accounts for the year 2019, usually published in April. In February, just before the Covid-19 outbreak, the airline said that its finances were on track to sustainability.

Illum speaks to relatives of residents at homes for the elderly who complained that they were being kept in their rooms alone 24-hours a day ‘like they were in a prison cell’. Other relatives raised particular concerns about residents with dementia.

Kullħadd says that there have been 179 same-sex marriages in Malta since the law was introduced in 2017. Figures published this week show a decline in 2019 because of the Covid-19 restrictions but Gozo registered its first four marriages.

Il-Mument says that the Malta Financial Services Authority has forked out €1.5 million in salaries for just two people in the last six years, while it footed bills amounting to half a million euros for 38 trips abroad.

Morning Briefing

Cabinet Reshuffle announced: Super Ministry for Miriam Dalli

Prime Minister Robert Abela has carried a major cabinet reshuffle which sees Dr Miriam Dalli appointed as Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development.

Former Chief of Staff Clyde Caruana was appointed Minister of Finance instead of Prof Edward Scicluna who is expected to take over the position of Governor at the Central Bank of Malta.

Dr Justyne Caruana returns to Cabinet as Minister for Education replacing Owen Bonnici who will now be responsible for Innovation and the strategy for the period after Covid-19. 

Tourism has been assigned to Clayton Bartolo, who will replace Julia Farrugia Portelli who was given the portfolio inclusion and quality of life. Dr Clifton Grima will serve as Parliamentary Secretary within Farrugia Portelli’s Ministry.

Silvio Schembri stripped of both Malta Enterprise and Air Malta

Air Malta, who was under the remit of Silvio Schembri will now fall within the portfolio of Clyde Caruana. Schembri will retain the portfolio he held with the significant change from the previous portfolio in the Ministry for the Economy being the removal of Air Malta and Malta Enterprise.

On the other hand Minister Schembri takes over the Lands Authority which was part of Minister Ian Borg’s portfolio.

A detailed analysis of the reshuffle is available here.

Prof Friggieri passes away

Professor Oliver Friggieri (73), one of Malta’s finest sons, a philosopher, author and poet passed away on Saturday.

Professor Friggieri wrote several masterpieces and works which earned him several awards, both local and international, including the Malta Government Literary Award, which he held in 1988, 1996 and 1997, and various editions of the National Book Prize. He was also awarded the Midalja tad-Deheb ‘Ġieħ l-Akkademja tal-Malti’ in 2016. His devotion to his art and research has been recognised as a valuable contribution to Maltese literary history. 

He was also awarded Gieh Ir-Repubblika, the highest honour Malta could give to its citizens.

Covid-19 UpdateMalta with one of lowest rates of positivity in Europe

Malta’s COVID-19 rate has been among the lowest in Europe for the last couple of weeks, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 

The number of new positive cases as a percentage of all tests carried out – was 4.05% from 24,577 tests and 3.97% from 22,095 tests over the last two weeks. 

In that period, the only countries with lower positivity rates were mostly in Scandinavia – Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark – as well as Ireland.

Health authorities yesterday reported 141 new cases of coronavirus while 159 persons recovered. These were identified through 3391 swab tests. The Coronavirus death toll in Malta reached 111 as the government announced the death of three persons on Saturday.

The cases involve two men who died a the age of 70 and 80 respectively and a woman who died at the age of 82.

 CDE News

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